Google’s new blocker: The death of ads or a necessary change?

In just three weeks, Google will launch an ad blocker for its Chrome browser, which has the potential to disrupt the publishing industry. With the aim of improving the user experience, the blocker will shield browser surfers from ads that fall short of standards determined by the Coalition for Better Ads – that is, disruptive full-page, flashing ads, as well ads with auto playing sound and video.

In the lead up to its launch, WNIP has spoken to a number of industry experts who examine the impact of Chrome’s ad blocker on the digital advertising ecosystem:

Curt Larson, VP of Product at Sharethrough

“Google’s move to block intrusive ads further supports the current industry-wide movement to improve the user experience. While publishers might fear the potential decline in revenue, it’s important to stress that Chrome’s blocker will only prevent disruptive ads that impede the online experience.

“For concerned publishers, using Google’s tool to test whether your site violates the standards will make it easy to get ahead of the issue. Obviously those who fall foul of the guidelines are going to need to halt the offending material, and potentially find new partners who provide better quality content – including native display and video ads, as well as respectful banner and preroll ads. Any measure that improves the quality of ads is good news for consumers and for the digital advertising ecosystem as a whole.”

 Alex McIlvenny, UK Country Manager, Ligatus

“The influence of Google’s ‘ad-blocking version’ of Chrome is likely to have a huge impact on publishers. Defining the new technology as a ‘blocker’ is misleading as the new feature is looking to ‘filter’ annoying and highly intrusive ads. This is a positive alignment to the work native programmatic is doing with premium publishers in developing platforms that have contextual, creative and tailored content, which enhances the user experience rather than hinders it.

“Publishers that have already decided to work with GDPR compliant premium platforms, which limit the amount of ads they show – but keep them personalised, relevant and non-intrusive – may find they are already generating more ad revenue than those who bombard users with lots of bad ads per page.”

Ben Barokas, CEO & Co-Founder, Sourcepoint

“Chrome’s introduction of ad blocking will see Google take further control over ad quality and standards. While the focus on ad quality is a step forward, understandably, many publishers are questioning how this change will impact their ability to reliably generate revenues.”

“As currently planned, Chrome will work to provide a better user experience, blocking ads by default that don’t conform to the Coalition for Better Ads’ standard – without the need to download a browser extension. This development may result in publishers being unfairly penalised as many are still heavily reliant on ad revenue to fund content production. However, it may also serve to motivate publishers to diversify revenue streams – whether that’s ad-based, direct payments or subscriptions.

“Moving into 2018, I think we’ll see publishers continue to focus on developing a broader set of solutions – including ad supported, payments, etc…,  that allow users to fairly compensate them for access to content. It’s clear that the winning, sustainable strategy has to be one that reflects user choice and not a prescribed, one-size-fits all approach.”

Andy Evans, CMO, Sovrn

“As members of the Coalition for Better Ads we are in support of the changes coming to Google Chrome next month. We believe that most publishers who have made user experience a priority are likely to currently meet the Better Ads Standards and therefore, will see little or no changes to their revenue. On the other hand, publishers who continue to intentionally run disruptive ad experiences, will likely see their revenue decline dramatically as all Chrome browser ads will be blocked.

“Sadly, there will also likely be publishers caught in the middle — those who have tried to do the right thing, but are flagged for bad-ads through no fault of their own. It’s not uncommon for buy-side vendors to ignore publisher, exchange and SSP requests regarding bad-ads. Our hope is that these will be few in number, but impactful enough that Google will in turn take steps to punish bad actors on the buy-side. We would have liked to see Chrome take the bolder approach of blocking both the buyer and the seller of bad ads rather than just the publisher, but believe the initial approach will begin to stem the tide of ad-block growth.”

“Publishers who are worried about the changes should visit the Google Search Console to see their status and pursue certification by the Coalition for Better Ads.”

Richard Reeves, Managing Director at AOP

“The impact of Google’s ad blocking version of Chrome should largely be viewed as a positive intervention. Any action or development that helps the industry move towards addressing the well-documented issues that undermine the consumer’s user experience has got to be good. However, Google must ensure transparency around its motivation for the move and reassure the industry that the initiative is not self-serving.

“Google’s ability to demonstrate a positive impact on user experience and monetisation models is indisputably a necessary component towards creating a healthier ecosystem.”

To conclude…

Rather than a catastrophe, the introduction of ad blocking features to Chrome – a browser used by nearly 60% of surfers around the world – should have a positive impact on the industry. While it’s actually more of a quality filter than an outright blocker, Google has given publishers plenty of time and tools to prepare for the change. Publishers should seize this opportunity to ensure they are only working with partners that create high-quality content, improving the user experience once and for all.